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Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Albert Einstein

Dedicated to Shar Henderson

About the author


Source: © Tom Roberton

Michael Henderson has had a lifelong passion for culture. Born in the United Kingdom, raised in Africa and now living in New Zealand, he has the advantage of being able to quickly understand the essence of a culture, including the values and underlying assumptions, and explain it to others. He is one of the few people working in business today who can teach organisations how to see, understand and transform culture in real terms.

Michael graduated from Auckland University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in anthropology. He then built on this academic knowledge by travelling extensively over the next seven years, reviewing more than 70 cultures and tribes across 40 countries.

For the past 16 years Michael has applied his unique combination of anthropological skills and practical business experience to support his clients in a variety of ways to unlock the power of cultures within their organisations.

He is the best-selling author of five books on the impact and benefits of mastering company culture and human values.

Michael has been awarded the Thought Leader Mentor of the Year award by Thought Leaders Global Ltd in recognition of his innovative and ground-breaking approaches to helping his clients develop and grow their business. Michael is a partner at Thought Leaders Global and their Anthropologist in Residence.


Having already written several books on organisational culture, I had to ask myself, ‘Does the world really need another?’ Writing a book requires no small amount of effort from both the author and the publishing team, comprising the commissioning editor, the editor, design and layout artist, sales and marketing team, and the cover design artist. As an author, before you even begin to think about putting pen to paper, or finger tips to keyboards, you have to consider if you genuinely have anything worthwhile to say or share, before you ask all these people to become engaged and support your effort with all their combined experience, talents, insights and advice.

So, first, my clients deserve a huge amount of appreciation and thanks for allowing me to share my ideas with them and then for having the commitment and perseverance to apply the ideas in their organisations. This interest and take-up by clients is the best motivation an author could have as it clearly indicates the ideas are worthy and had been tested in the most demanding environment the fast-changing, cynical world of business. Ineffective ideas don’t last long when people, time, money, energy, profits, customers and shareholders are at stake.

Second, I wish to thank professional editor Meryl Potter who had the thankless task of translating the ideas in my original manuscript into written English. Unfortunately I think faster than I can type, and so my brain is often a sentence or paragraph ahead of my typing fingers. This resulted in regular doses of chaos appearing in the pages of the first draft. Meryl bravely ventured into my written jungle and, with editing machete and torch in hand, slashed the unnecessary away and illuminated the bits worth highlighting. This book is at least twice if not three times better than the original draft due to Meryl’s input. If you enjoy this book and learn from it you probably have Meryl to thank for it.

I also wish to thank the team at Wiley, special thanks to the inspiring and encouraging Commissioning Editor Kristen Hammond, Senior Editor Alice Berry, Publicist Katie Elliott, Publishing Coordinator Keira de Hoog and Marketing Manager Peter Walmsley.

Writing a book takes time and energy and in my case that has only been possible because I have the amazing support of my family around me. Their perfectly timed cups of tea, delivered with a gentle non-interruptive placing of an encouraging hand on my shoulder, or the quiet whisper of ‘dinner’s ready’ delivered as a smiling face appears around the edge of my study door, has enabled me to focus on writing.

Although my name appears on the front cover of this book, many people have contributed to the thinking and ideas contained in this book — people such as my customers, Thought Leader colleague and dear friend Matt Church, have offered continuous mentoring and encouragement over many years, all of which has significantly contributed to the development of my thinking and ideas. Thanks to my dear friend and colleague at Cultures At Work, Dougal Thompson, for his research, common sense advice and support and friendship.

I wish also to thank the many cynics and sceptics to my work that I have met along the way. Having my work scoffed at and belittled as being ‘the soft stuff’ is a useful experience to go through as it has taught me to think about the types of barriers to understanding that have to be overcome before a book like this can stand any chance of moving large numbers of people — in short they have helped me understand how to help even the most cynical to take culture seriously.

Finally I wish to thank my wife, Shar. If there is anyone that supports me to stay above the line it is Shar. Thank you for the thousands of conversations we have had together discussing every aspect of this work and this book. Your spirit, generosity, love and compassion for people is woven through every line written in this book. I love you.